Ask Amy: Mom’s phone addiction puts kids on hold

July 16, 2012

DEAR AMY: We have been exposed to countless news stories describing the extreme amount of time young people spend in front of a screen each day and their addiction to technology.

I seem to be experiencing the opposite problem. My mom recently got an iPhone and will not put the device down for one minute. She is a stay-at-home mom, so her phone usage is not for business purposes; she simply cannot take a break from her e-mails or “Words With Friends” games.

While we are walking somewhere, she lags behind because she cannot walk and text at the same time and doesn’t fully pay attention to our conversations because she is distracted by her phone activity. I have explained to her that it makes me feel she isn’t present in our conversations, but nothing changes.

I am the child; she is supposed to be telling me to get off the phone, not the other way around. But I do not have the authority that a parent has over a child to simply demand that she hang up. How can I get my mom to stop being such a phone addict? -- Neglected Child

DEAR CHILD: Studies confirm that smartphone addiction is a real phenomenon (with a reported 70 percent of respondents in one Stanford University study saying they sleep with their phones).

While you can’t cut off your mother the way some parents would, by (for instance) yanking her phone from her hand and hurling it out the window (my particular fantasy), you can talk about it once more and then try to retrain her Pavlovian iPhone response in real time.

See if she will agree to a “no phone zone” from 6 to 8 p.m. You two can enforce this discipline by deliberately leaving distraction devices in another room.

Also, pet stores sell clickers for animal training. You might see if your mother is capable of being retrained like a Labrador retriever through selective clicking, followed by treats.

DEAR AMY: I’m 16. A couple of weeks ago, I won a radio contest and got two tickets to see my favorite band in concert. I was ecstatic when I found out.

When my mom found out, though, she freaked out. She doesn’t want me to go because she thinks it’s not safe enough for me (this is an all-ages concert, by the way).

I’m willing to give the second ticket to a mature adult, but she still won’t let me go! She has this old thinking that girls shouldn’t go to events like this because a drunk person might hurt me. How can I convince her that nothing’s going to happen to me and that I’m responsible and trustworthy? -- Concertgoer

DEAR CONCERTGOER: I shared your question with Roxanne Steele, a DJ for 98.7 AMP radio in Detroit.

She responds, “As a radio DJ who gives away tickets to music fans, I know how hard it is to actually get through to win, so when you finally do, naturally you want to go!

“I see kids at concerts all the time, and they’re usually with their parents. Is your mom willing to go with you? Even if you don’t really want her as your date, this could be an opportunity for her to see what concerts these days are like — and also how you would handle yourself.”

Although I believe that this event poses almost no risk to you, I agree with Roxanne: You’re boxed into a corner, so it’s time to ask your mom out.

Speaking as an adult survivor of a long ago “mom date” (1976, Jackson Browne), I assure you that it would be worth it.

DEAR AMY: “Conflicted Father” couldn’t decide how to name his children.

When my husband of 14 years and I were getting married, I was opposed to taking his last name and he was opposed to taking mine, so we did the obvious thing and both changed our names to something we could agree on. We love our new family name and were proud to pass it along to our daughter. -- Tina Ann M

DEAR TINA: This question brought on a hefty response. I’ll run other suggestions in future columns.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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